Thousands flee as floods threaten major Pakistani city

August 13th, 2010 - 5:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Jacobabad (Pakistan), Aug 13 (DPA) Thousands of people were fleeing a major city in southern Pakistan after authorities issued a flood warning Friday as rescue workers attempted to get relief to millions affected across the country.
People were using cars, lorries, tractors and donkey carts to leave Jacobabad, a city of around 400,000 people.

“There is a lot of pressure in the Noorwah water canal and there is a risk that the water can breach the banks anytime. So we are urging people to evacuate,” Kazim Ali Jatoi, the district coordination officer, told DPA.

But many people were still reluctant to leave their homes and belongings. “I have moved my wife, elderly father, and three children to another place but I am going to stay here to guard my property,” Noor Mohammad, 46, said. “Where would I take my possessions? There is water everywhere.”

Jacobabad is the second major city being evacuated since last week when the floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains swept across the country, submerging thousands of villages and affecting some 16 million people.

Earlier this week, some 450,000 people fled in panic from Muzaffargarh, a town in the central province of Punjab, to nearby Multan.

It is still not clear whether Multan would be a safe place for the residents of Muzaffargarh.

Earlier officials said Multan was facing a threat from a second wave of floods in the River Chenab but later said the water was starting to recede and the surge reaching Multan would be of lower intensity than previously predicted.

The Jacobabad evacuation came a day after the government announced plans to intensify rescue and aid efforts for the victims of the worst floods for 100 years.

After visiting affected regions, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday, “The extent of total damage to life, property, cattle head and infrastructure may be far more than what the initial estimates suggested.”

The premier met for two hours with President Asif Ali Zardari, and agreed that “a massive mobilization of resources including budgetary re-prioritization may be required”, a statement from the presidential palace said.

As co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, the president also called on party officials to contribute by setting up relief camps and reporting back on their efforts.

The statement said the effects of the floods were now “more severe in intensity and damage” than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami or the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, the floods have cost at least 1,384 lives so far, with over 1,000 fatalities in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa alone.

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